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Convergence gets a boost at JHWFF Symposium in Denver

In alternate years, the organizers of theGlobal Immersion. A Dolby 3D digital projection system was temporarily installed in the Ricketson Theater for the meeting.

The JHWFF’s executive director is Lisa Samford. Symposium director is Carrie Noel Richer, and the executive committee is chaired by Michael Rosenfeld, president of National Geographic Television.

JHWFF divides its symposium into “Strands” to explore selected trends, tools, and techniques through demonstrations, screenings, and panel discussions. The strands of Symposium 2010 included 3D and fulldome. IMERSA (Immersive Media, Entertainment, Research, Science& Arts, an international nonprofit association) worked with JHWFF to organize the fulldome strand, dubbed the Fulldome Summit.

The concurrent sessions were all strong, making it hard for a delegate to choose from among them. But that’s the JHWFF programming style, and as the event progressed, session by session and day by day, the style proved itself: the organizers had created an environment for synergy that was crackling through the air. The Symposium put members of overlapping communities together with the means to discover common cause and common interests.

IMERSA has been nurturing that synergy and making the most of those overlaps since the association was founded in 2008. It has been planting seeds of the Convergence — the coming together of giant-screen cinema and fulldome, and the positioning of both in the wider context of Immersive Media — through relationships and presentations, working with organizations such as the Giant Screen Cinema Association, Themed Entertainment Association, International Planetarium Society, Association of Science-Technology Centers, Producers Guild of America, and the Center for Conscious Creativity. IMERSA co-founder Ed Lantz and I have written a good deal about the Convergence in the pages ofLF Examiner and other publications. It was very rewarding to see and hear the Convergence manifesting in the real-world forum of Symposium 2010, refreshingly free of ax-grinding.

Screenings in the IMAX theater included Under the Sea 3D, Hubble 3D, African Adventure 3D, Grand Canyon Adventure 3D, The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest, Sharks 3D, and Sea Rex 3D. The Phipps was also the venue for Nat Geo Television’s premiere HD screening of Great Migrations, and for numerous trailers, including the brand-new Nat Geo trailer for Wildest Weather in the Solar System, which has already been licensed by DMNS. Taking an active role in the convergence, Nat Geo has added original all-CGI shows for digital fulldomes to its portfolio. Screenings of Bugs!, Cane Toads, Dinosaurs, TurtleVision, and other programs were held in the Ricketson Theater.

The titles screened in the Gates Planetarium are best known to the planetarium industry, but part of what fuels the Convergence is that digital media have opened up programming and production: these are not your grandfather’s star shows. The blue planet phenomenon — the paradigm shift in how humankind perceives Earth and its surroundings now that we’ve viewed it from space — is in full force here.

Also coming into its own on the digital dome now is live-action photography, including image capture, applications of panoramic photography, and live-action compositing. Prime examples at the Fulldome Summit were Cosmic Dance, produced by LivinGlobe for the Canadian Museum of Hindu Civilization, Mirage 3D’s Natural Selection, Life, a new production from the California Academy of Sciences, and demos from xRez Studio and globetrotting photographer Tito Dupret.

There was also a panel discussion, Live Action for Fulldome. Two other panels, “So, You Want to Produce for Fulldome?” and “Fulldome Best Practices,” were moderated by IMERSA board member Paul Fraser of Blaze Digital Cinema Works, who moves freely between the giant-screen and fulldome communities.

Fulldome titles shown in the Gates included the aforementioned Cosmic Dance and Natural Selection, Black Holes: the Other Side of Infinity (Thomas Lucas Productions, DMNS, Spitz, Inc., and AVL), Crossing Worlds (xRez), Journey to the Stars (American Museum of Natural History), Tales of the Maya Skies (Chabot Space and Science Center), Fragile Planet (California Academy of Sciences), Solar Storms(Sky-Skan), Seven Wonders (Evans & Sutherland), and Sea Monsters (National Geographic Cinema Ventures). There were also demonstrations of real-time navigation systems such as Uniview, which allow a planetarium operator to take audiences on a voyage through 3D databases. (The complete program of Symposium 2010 is online at www.jhfestival.org/jhsymposium/programs.htm. IMERSA videoed most of the fulldome sessions and will post them soon at www.IMERSA.org.

Among those making the Convergence bloom in real time at Symposium 2010 were Val Kass of the National Science Foundation, Janine Baker of nWave Pictures (who is newly elected to the JHWFF board), Rick Rothschild of Global Immersion (and president of TEA), and Mark Katz of National Geographic Cinema Ventures. Familiar faces from GSCA included Andrew Oran of Fotokem, Jonathan Barker of SK Films, Shaun MacGillivray ofMacGillivray Freeman Films, and former MFF producer Alec Lorimore. MFF Educational Foundation president Chris Palmer was there promoting his new book, Shooting in the Wild.

Donna Cox of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Greg Shirah from NASA, and Mike Bruno of Spitz represented the team that produced Black Holes and is now developing a new fulldome show, Dynamic Earth. All the IMERSA brass attended, including board members DMNS’ Dan Neafus (head of the Gates Planetarium, and the principal force behind the Fulldome Summit), Ed Lantz (Vortex Immersion) who has since addressed the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on the future of cinema, and Ryan Wyatt (California Academy of Sciences), plus some of IMERSA’s most active members, including Martin Howe of Global Immersion, David McConville (The Elumenati), Markand Carolyn Petersen (Loch Ness Productions), Michael Daut of Evans & Sutherland, and George Barnett of Sky-Skan.

Amid the open atmosphere of Symposium 2010 — the atmosphere of the Convergence, where separations seemed to be melting away and ancillary markets opening up — it struck me as ironic that a new subdivision had just gone into effect: the GSCA’s “Bigger. Bolder. Better.” campaign for giant-screen theaters above a certain size. At 41x65 feet (12.5x20 meters) the Phipps IMAX is too small to qualify for it.

IMERSA is considering holding another Fulldome Summit next year. Visit imersa.org for more information.

Judith Rubin is communications director for IMERSA. This article was first published in the Dec 2010 issue of LF Examiner,www.lfexaminer.comand is reprinted with permission.

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